Heath Ledger's family have publicly expressed their grief for the loss of the late actor following his tragic death on Tuesday.

The Brokeback Mountain star was found unconscious in his apartment in downtown Manhattan and pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday afternoon, with a subsequent post-mortem proving inconclusive as to the cause of his death.

The Perth-born actor's family have contributed several messages to the death notices section of the West Australian newspaper today, with mother Sally saying the family were "so grateful for the wonderful times we shared".

Ledger's older sister Kate added: "I can hardly breathe when I try to write this. We were the ultimate in soul mates. I feel both my heart and life have been torn apart.

"There will never, ever be another 'Heath' and I think that in itself is the greatest tragedy."

And his father Kim, who issued an emotional statement following the discovery of the 28-year-old's body, addressed his "beautiful boy, so loving, so talented, so independent, so caring, so young".

"Your truly varied artistic skills, insatiable desire to improve and eclectic abilities set you apart from any other person on the planet," he wrote.

The Oscar-nominated actor had met partner Michelle Williams, the mother of his two-year-old daughter Matilda, on the set of Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain.

However the pair had split in September last year and Ledger had admitted to experiencing sleep problems following the exhaustion of starring roles in I'm Not There and The Dark Knight.

New York City police were reportedly investigating the possibility that the actor had died of a drug overdose following the discovery of prescription tablets by the actor's bed.

Daniel Day-Lewis recently expressed his deep sadness at the passing of Ledger, telling Oprah Winfrey: "There isn't anything to say other than to express one's regret to his family and his friends.

"I had already marvelled at some of his work. And looked forward to the work he would do in the future," the British actor added.

25/01/2008 13:05:18